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Texas Health Workers Use Tabasco to Help Train for Ebola

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- As Texas health workers prepare two new biocontainment units to help treat any future Ebola patients the state might have, they're are using one piece of training equipment from a neighboring state that may surprise you: Tabasco sauce.

At the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where one of the units is being established, the staff has been practicing treating fake patients who have been sprayed at random with the peppery sauce as a stand-in for Ebola virus-laden fluids. Doctors and nurses practice dressing and undressing in their protective gear to avoid contamination, but if they feel the tingle of Tabasco on their skin, they know they've been contaminated.

"In a way, it gives feedback immediately," said Dr. Bruce Meyer, an executive vice president at the hospital, giving credit to the hospital's director of infection prevention, Doramarie Arocha, for the idea.

Tabasco sauce is made by Louisiana-based McIlhenny Co. from red peppers called Capsicum frutescens, which are made spicy by the chemical capsaicin. When skin comes in contact with this chemical, the brain's pain and temperature receptors get activated at the same time, causing that tingly, hot feeling. The hot pepper chemical has also been used in other medical settings, including dermatology and neurology for pain and itch relief.

Nurse Elizabeth Thomas, who works in the hospital's infection prevention department, said health workers were originally drilling with ketchup mixed with water when Arocha came up with the idea to use Tobasco sauce instead. When workers took off protective gear at the end of a drill, Arocha told everyone to rub their eyes and touch their lips.

"But we didn't have the burning sensation," Thomas said. "So that's how we knew we were doing the right thing."

In the aftermath of Texas being home to the first two Ebola transmissions on American soil, Gov. Rick Perry this week promised to create two biocontainment units in the state to treat any future Ebola cases that may arise.

Two nurses who treated Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan for Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas last month -- Nina Pham, 26, and Amber Vinson, 29 -- contracted the deadly virus and are being treated in isolation units at the National Institutes of Health isolation facility in Bethesda, Maryland, and Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, respectively.

Though it's not clear exactly how the nurses caught the virus, some have speculated that they may have been contaminated while taking off protective gear.

"When you have gone into contaminated gloves, masks or other things to remove those without risk of contaminated material touching you and being then on your clothes or face or skin and leading to an infection is critically important and not easy to do right," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said during a news conference the day Pham's preliminary Ebola test came back positive.

Vinson's family announced that she had been declared virus-free on Wednesday, and Pham's condition was upgraded from "fair" to "good" earlier this week.

One new Texas biocontainment unit will be at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, which is also home to a high-security biolab that is already prepared to treat Ebola in the unlikely event that one of its workers becomes infected while studying the virus in the lab setting. The other biocontainment unit will be at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, which has already spent "north of half a million dollars" retrofitting rooms and training staff to treat Ebola patients in isolation over the last several weeks, Meyer said.

Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, who directs Columbia University's Center for Infection and Immunity, called the move a "sensible investment," and said that other communities should be able to replicate centers like the ones at Emory University Hospital, Nebraska Medical Center and the NIH facility, where other Ebola patients have been treated in the United States.

"The unit itself physically isn't that complicated," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, adding that training staff is much more crucial to the effort.

"Virtually any hospital of any size" can build one of these units, he said. And though it might not be as "elaborate" as the ones at Emory and the NIH, it should work.

The United States currently houses four facilities with biocontainment units, and they have the capacity to treat 11 patients. Texas would be adding two new facilities, and the ability to treat several more patients.

"When I heard about this, I said 'Good for them,'" Schaffner said. "They'll add to the U.S. capacity to take care of Ebola patients in these units."

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Why Stretching Is a Waste of Time for Runners

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After years of nursing a perpetual hip injury, 48-year-old Amanda Loudin finally stopped doing the one thing she always believed would help her the most: Stretching. Once she abandoned her post-run stretch session, she said her hip started feeling better.

"I always assumed stretching was part of the solution for my running injuries," said Loudin, a Baltimore writer who runs 45 to 60 miles a week. "But after doing my research, I realized I was probably doing more harm than good."

Loudin gave up stretching a few years ago but for the majority of runners, toe touches and quad stretches are still an integral part of their ritual. Most were taught in high school that reaching into a stretch and holding it for 30 seconds or so is a good way to preserve the joints and prevent injury.

The evidence, however, suggests otherwise.

Take, for example, a large analysis of multiple studies recently performed by scientists at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. It found that runners who stretched were just as likely to be plagued with injuries as those who never bothered. Another study that looked at more than 1,500 serious male marathoners found that those who stretched on a regular basis -- whether before or after a run -- actually had 33 percent more injuries than those who didn't, even taking things like age and average weekly mileage into account.

Even worse, some studies suggest that stretching may be detrimental to performance. A 2010 Florida State University investigation found that trained distance runners who did a series of static stretches before a time trial wasted about 5 percent more energy and covered 3 percent less distance than runners who didn't stretch.

"Your tendons don't need to be that pliable for running," said Jason Karp, an exercise physiologist and running coach based in San Diego. "Most injuries are from the pounding of running, something stretching can't do much about."

Karp explained that since most common running injuries tend to occur within a muscle's normal range of motion, attempting to stretch past what a muscle can normally do offers no protection. And forcing the muscle to lengthen to the point of pain will likely cause it to tighten up rather than relax. This in turn can irritate the muscle fibers, exacerbating an injury and possibly causing it to linger, he speculated.

Karp explained that the very idea that runners should be chasing flexibility is somewhat questionable anyway.

"The only thing stretching might be good for is increasing stride length and running fluidity, something that might be helpful to older runners," he said.

But Jim Wharton, a New York-based exercise physiologist who has worked with Olympians and world record holders, said he thought runners do need to focus on flexibility -- but in a very specific way.

"If you don't have joint range of motion, you begin to fight against gravity and you start to shuffle," Wharton said, adding that part of the problem is that most exercisers stretch the wrong way.

"Because muscles work in pairs, the best way to get a muscle to relax is to first tighten the muscle on the opposite side of the joint," Wharton explained. "Instead of moving into a stretch and holding it, you gently move through a series of positions, isolating one muscle group at a time."

To stretch the hamstrings in the back of the thigh, lift your leg up in front of you 8 to 10 times without forcing it any higher than comfortable, Wharton explained. Because kicking upward causes the quadriceps in the front of the thighs to contract, the hamstrings must relax, Wharton said. To stretch out the quads, reverse and kick the leg back behind you, he said.

There is little evidence to support this "dynamic stretching" theory beyond a few small studies that suggested adding movement-oriented flexibility exercises either after a warm up or at the end of a work out does not cause injury and may improve overall running performance.

Wharton said that he's used the method successfully with thousands of runners. Karp also uses a similar technique with his clients.

Loudin for one is a believer in dynamic stretching. She now warms up with a series of swings, kicks and lunges to loosen up her muscles and get her blood flowing.

"It felt strange at first but the voice in back of my head says it's the right thing to do," she said. "In running you sometimes have to let go of your long-held beliefs."

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One College Has Unique Approach to Preventing Sexual Assaults

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(HAMILTON, N.Y.) -- Colgate University is doing its part in the national campaign to end sexual violence on college campuses.

The idea is one that might catch on elsewhere because students who take a seminar on sexual consent can use those credits toward the school’s Phys Ed requirements.

During the class, which meets for six weeks per semester, students are assigned to read and discuss Jessica Valenti's book, Yes Means Yes!, which means that both people give conscious and voluntary consent to having sex. At the completion of the course, each student must expound on an ideal sexual climate on campus.

Although the Yes Means Yes seminar is referred to as an extracurricular program, its purpose is particularly serious.  And for Colgate students, a relatively painless way to get out of Phys Ed for one semester.

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Walnuts Might Slow Onset of Alzheimer's

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Walnuts are not everyone’s cup of tea but even those who aren’t fans of the nut can’t ignore some important findings by the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities.

After conducting experiments with mice prone to Alzheimer’s disease, researchers say that their learning skills, memory and motor skills all improved after consuming walnuts.

On top of that, the walnut-fed mice, compared to those who didn’t get the nuts, also experienced less anxiety.

It’s believed that the anti-oxidants found in walnuts protect the brain from amyloid beta, a protein that kills cells which hastens dementia.

All it took to help the mice ward off Alzheimer’s disease was the human equivalent of one to one-and-a-half ounces of walnuts daily. Of course, more tests are needed to determine if people can also capitalize on the surprise benefits of walnuts.

One caveat: the study was funded partly by the California Walnut Commission.

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Careful, Your Dishcloth Might Make You Sick

iStock/Thinkstock(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Who could have a bad word to say about a dischcloth, an essential kitchen accessory that also cuts down on the expense of buying paper towels?

Unfortunately, researchers at the University of Arizona’s Zuckerman College of Public Health feel they need to alert the public about the dangers of dishcloths.

If that sounds somewhat alarmist, the researchers contend that almost nine out of ten dishcloths, and sponges as well, are contaminated with coliform bacteria, which is present in the digestive tracts of humans and animals and found in their waste.

Meanwhile, E. coli was also present in one out of four dishcloths and sponges.

All this would probably want to make people ditch the dishcloth, considering the bacterium can be transferred to plates, utensils, kitchen counters or just about anything it touches.

The way to keep things as clean as possible, according to the researchers, is through “frequent replacement or decontamination of kitchen towels.” And the best way to decontaminate them? Soak the cloth in bleach for two minutes.

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The Antidote to College Problems May Be a Therapy Dog

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Therapy dogs are not just for the physically disabled or the elderly anymore. In an effort to relieve the loneliness and other emotional problems felt by many students, three colleges partnered to learn if therapy dogs could also be of help on campuses.

The results, as reported by Georgia State University, Idaho State University and Savannah College of Art and Design, were that symptoms of loneliness and anxiety fell by 60 percent when students interacted with a therapy dog.

During the experiment, students showed up twice a month at a college counseling center to do whatever activity they liked with the dog for up to two hours under the supervision of a licensed mental health practitioner.

Ultimately, most said their time with the pet was the most significant part of the counseling session.

Researcher Franco Dispenza agreed that therapy animals can prove invaluable given the pressures and stress of college life these days, which can be exacerbated by problems students may have already had before entering a school.

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Nurse Who Contracted Ebola Virus-Free, Mom Says

Debra Berry(DALLAS) -- A Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola from Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan is virus-free, her mother said in a statement obtained by ABC News.

Amber Vinson became the second person to contract Ebola in the United States after she treated Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Duncan died of the virus on Oct. 8, and Vinson's fellow nurse, Nina Pham, 26, tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 11.

Vinson, 29, was diagnosed on Oct. 15 and transported to the isolation unit at Emory University Hospital for treatment.

"We are overjoyed to announce that, as of yesterday [Tuesday] evening, officials at Emory University Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control are no longer able to detect virus in her body," the family said in the statement Wednesday, adding that Vinson should be able to leave the isolation unit.

"Amber and our family are ecstatic to receive this latest report on her condition," Vinson's mother, Debra Berry, said in a statement. "We all know that further treatment will be necessary as Amber continues to regain strength, but these latest developments have truly answered prayers and bring our family one step closer to reuniting with her at home."

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Boy Battling Inoperable Brain Cancer Gets His Own Superhero Theme Song

iStock/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- When Chad Carr fell and broke his nose, the four-year-old boy’s parents took him to a hospital. Medical staffers saw him and sent him home, but the incident had his mother thinking about all the other times her son had fallen.

“I just said I think we have to take him back to the ER, I don’t think something’s right....,” Tammi Carr, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, told ABC News.

While Carr and her husband, Jason, waited on the results of an MRI that was to have taken two hours but which took over three hours instead, Carr said she knew something was wrong.

“When the anesthesiologist came out I just knew something was really bad because she literally couldn’t look at us and she’d been crying…so it was -- she just said they found something, and then a doctor came in later and told us what it was,” Carr said.

The Carrs were told that their son -– the youngest of their three young boys –- had diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive, inoperable tumor in his brain stem.

He was soon started on radiation and put into a clinical drug trial at the University of Michigan. Asked about his prognosis, Carr said doctors said it was “not good,” but she added that her son has been improving.

One bright spot came in the form of a text from a friend, who wrote that his family had been inspired by Chad's challenge and was writing a song about him. He sent them lyrics, and Carr said the song was “totally catchy and adorable.”

It became Chad’s own superhero theme, with rousing music and lyrics that extol the virtues of a boy who’s “stronger than the darkest night, faster than the speed of light,” with a chant in the background: "We need Chad tough." The video features appearances by Chad, his two brothers, his cousins, his father, and the basketball team of the University of Michigan.

The video, first posted to YouTube on Monday, now has over 6,000 views.

Carr said, "It’s a great song. It’s something I’m going to cherish forever."

Proceeds from the sale of the song will go for Chad’s care and treatment. A separate GoFundMe page for Chad had raised more than $9,000 of the stated $50,000 goal. That fund was started fifteen days ago.

Carr hopes the family won’t have to use the funds.

“It’s our goal that we don’t have to use that and we can do something great with it for research but if our son needs it then we’re going to do whatever we can, so it’s great to have that started. It’s a peace of mind for sure because there’s a lot coming our way. We don’t exactly know yet what it is but none of it is expensive,” she said.

Carr said Chad is being kept out of preschool while he undergoes treatment.

“We want to make sure we’re spending time with him as much as we can and, you know, God willing, he’s able to go back to school next year and, you know, get ready for kindergarten the next year,” she said.

Carr said her family also has a fund started at the University of Michigan for brain cancer research.

“I worked in raising money for 11 years to build the hospital that we’re getting treated in now,” she said, adding that the building that houses the unit where her son is treated bears her father-in-law’s name. “It’s just crazy.”

Carr is pleased that the video has caught on, not only because it’s spreading her son’s story, but also because it’s giving her the opportunity to spread the message about the importance for greater funding for childhood cancer research.

According to the National Cancer Institute, childhood cancer is the top cause of disease-related deaths among children and adolescents up to age 19 in the United States. DIPG affects between 200 and 300 children every year, and the outlook for patients is generally poor, according to information from the National Institutes of Health.

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CDC to Monitor All Travelers Coming from Ebola-Affected Countries

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- All people returning to the United States from Ebola-affected countries will undergo 21-day monitoring, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday.

Travelers arriving from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people since the worst outbreak of the virus in history began in March, will be given a home kit with a thermometer and Ebola information so that they can self-monitor and report to the CDC, according to the agency.

If they do not report, officials will track them down, the CDC said.

Travelers will need to take their temperature twice daily and answer several questions about their symptoms, according to the CDC.

The program will focus on the six states that see about 70 percent of the traffic from these regions: Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Some states may monitor these travelers in person.

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Dog of Ebola-Infected Nurse Tests Negative for Deadly Virus

Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center(DALLAS) -- The dog of an Ebola-infected nurse has tested negative for the deadly virus.

Bentley has been quarantined after its owner, Nina Pham, was diagnosed with Ebola earlier this month.

According to a statement from Dallas City Hall, the dog was tested Monday and will be tested again while he remains in quarantine for 21 days, similar to how humans are quarantined for the duration of a possible Ebola incubation.

Pham was diagnosed on Oct. 12.

The dog has been cared for at an undisclosed location by a large team including Dallas Animal Services, Texas A&M University and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and Texas Animal Health Commission, among others.

The Dallas Animal Services, which has helped care for the the dog in quarantine, posted images of the dog on Monday as he was being tested.

A team member from the Texas A&M University Veterinary Emergency Team wore full protective gear as he took samples from Bentley.

In Spain, the dog of an Ebola-infected nurse there was euthanized amid fears the animal could spread the virus although there was no confirmation the dog had been infected with the virus. Thousands protested the decision by local government officials.

Pham contracted the virus after she treated Thomas Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. She was moved to the National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, on Oct. 16 for further treatment.

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Ashoka Mukpo Says He Owes Hospital a 'Debt He Can Never Repay'

Ashoka Mukpo(OMAHA, Neb.) -- Ashoka Mukpo, the freelance American journalist who caught Ebola and was discharged from Nebraska Medical Center on Wednesday, said he owes the hospital staff "a debt he can never repay."

Mukpo, 33, a cameraman covering the Ebola outbreak in West Africa for NBC News, Vice and others, contracted the deadly virus. He was flown to Nebraska Medical Center for treatment in its isolation unit on Oct. 6.

"After end weeks where it was unclear whether I would survive, I’m walking out of the hospital on my own power, free from Ebola," Mukpo wrote in a statement read at a news conference at the hospital Wednesday.

He took to social media throughout his treatment, tweeting Tuesday night that he tested negative for Ebola three times over three days.

Just got my results. 3 consecutive days negative. Ebola free and feeling so blessed. I fought and won, with lots of help. Amazing feeling

— ashoka (@unkyoka) October 21, 2014

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People with Kids Laugh, Smile and Are Stressed

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- What’s the matter with kids today? Not a lot, according to most adults who have youngsters running around the house although they'll admit that the responsibility of being a parent is also a strain.

A survey of more than 131,000 adults by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that 84.1 percent of parents with children under 18 -- about 36,000 of those interviewed -- said they smiled or laughed a lot on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, 79.6 percent of survey respondents with no kids in the house reported the same thing.

However, having kids isn’t all fun and games as just about any parent will attest. The poll also reveals that just over 45 percent of people with kids who aren’t adults yet experience greater stress. That’s compared with just under 37 percent of people who don’t live with children.

Interestingly, more women than men feel stress in both groups while they’re both on the same level when it comes to laughing and smiling.

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New Sex Education Program Reduces Middle School Sex

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Get Real is an experimental sex education program used in a limited number of U.S. middle schools that seems to have been effective in getting some youngsters to put off having sex by the time they graduate the eighth grade.

Planned Parenthood, in partnership with the Wellesley Centers for Women, says that Get Real involves regular sex education in conjunction with students discussing classroom work with their parents after school.

After evaluating 24 schools in the Boston area over three years, it turned out that 16 percent fewer boys and 15 percent fewer girls had sex in the 12 schools where Get Real was taught.

The way that Get Real works is that in addition to educating youngsters about sex, it also sharpens their relationship skills, according to Planned Parenthood.

Although the program has been expanded to 150 schools in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Texas, the plan is to roll out Great Real on a national scale.

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Coffee and Beer May Affect Some Couples' Ability to Conceive

FogStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Coffee and beer are a couple of America’s favorite beverages but one may possibly be better than the other when it comes to couples who are having problems conceiving.

According to a surprising study out of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, coffee consumption by men seems to impair infertility treatments. However, a man’s beer drinking might increase the odds of pregnancy, although researchers are not suggesting they imbibe in great quantities of suds.

In a study of 105 men involved in vitro fertilization treatments over seven years, couples in which men drank at least 24 ounces of coffee daily were half as likely to conceive than those in which males drank less than an eight-ounce cup daily.

Meanwhile, couples enrolled in IVF had more luck with live births when the man had the equivalent of two 12-ounce beers daily compared to other couples with limited alcohol consumption among men.

Why do beer and coffee have these effects? Scientists admit they’re stumped and with a small sample size, they’re not about to make any recommendations until further studies are conducted.

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Frequent Restaurant Dining May Cause Health Problems

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you can afford to do it, why not dine out as much as possible?

Well, researchers at Queens College, City University of New York are advising against it and not purely for financial reasons.

According to lead author Ashima Kant, when people dine frequently at restaurants, they run a higher risk of putting on the pounds and boosting bad cholesterol as compared to those who mainly enjoy their meals at home.

In an analysis of 8,300 adults in the U.S. between 2005 and 2010, people who ate at least six meals in restaurants on a weekly basis had a higher body mass index, lower levels of good cholesterol and a deficiency in Vitamins C and E.

Who are the worst offenders? Generally, college-educated men in their 20s and 30s who earn good salaries.

As for why restaurant fare isn’t a great choice on a daily basis, the obvious answers are too much salt, too much fat, large portions and not enough fruits and vegetables offered.

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